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How can Patchs Online Consultation and Telephone Assistant facilitate inclusive care?
Blog //08-04-2024

How can Patchs Online Consultation and Telephone Assistant facilitate inclusive care?

by Health and Care, OneAdvanced Public Sector

In this blog, we will explore how Patchs Online Consultation and Telephone Assistant can facilitate accessible and inclusive medical care, making a world of difference for those whose struggles can often go unseen.

We'll uncover how intuitive and accessible online and telephone services aren’t just a matter of convenience, but a shift towards equal attention and care for all patients, irrespective of their ability, and why offering exclusively face to face or even online appointments can be alienating for many patients.

The true essence of inclusivity in healthcare is beyond check-box exercises in policy implementation. It is about recognising that individuals with disabilities deserve a healthcare experience that is not just 'tolerant' or 'accommodating', but sensitive to their unique needs.

The barriers to overcome.

The latest estimates from the Department for Work and Pensions' Family Resources Survey indicate that 16.0 million people in the UK reported as having a disability in the 2021/22 financial year.

The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on GP practices to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people when accessing services.

This can include facilities like ramps, ground floor consultation rooms, disability parking bays, and other physical adjustments for patients with physical disabilities; many of them see that as the most they can do, and don’t see beyond the physical access issues many face.  

For some patients, even leaving their house can be a struggle, this could be due to unmanageable pain, or a lack of assistance to get them ready and out the door. Then there are those who are unable to drive and struggle with public transport, which even with its modifications and provisions, is rarely tailored to the individual needs of a disabled person.

There are those with severe apprehension about going into a GP surgery, this could be because their disability makes it difficult and stressful to navigate an unknown place. There are a multitude of disabilities that could prevent a patient from accessing their GP surgery even with a hundred ramps and accessible parking spaces.

The power and limitations of online consultations.

So how do we open the door for these patients? By giving them a way to get the level of care and attention that any other patient would receive, but without having to leave the comfort and safety of their home.

Patchs Online Consultation is one point of contact that allows GP practices to transcend physical barriers, enhancing the patient's ability to access care. The significance of this capability becomes glaringly apparent when considering patients with disabilities, for whom the physical act of visiting a healthcare practice can be a logistical, physical, and emotional obstacle, but who are comfortable using online services.

Online consultations break down barriers for many, offering a medium through which patients can receive high-quality healthcare without the need for physical presence. For a lot of mobility-impaired individuals, the freedom that virtual care affords is nothing short of liberating.

Patchs allows patients to log a request online and receive medical advice virtually, rather than needing to book and attend an in-person appointment. Once the request is logged by the patient it is then triaged and added to the list of requests in order of urgency. This list of requests can then be viewed by clinical staff at a time that suits them, allowing them to action the request as needed.

For many this could be a phone call, video chat, sending a prescription to their local pharmacy, writing them a sick note, referring them to another service and so on. This means the only time a patient will need to visit a practice is when a clinical member of staff has assessed the case and deemed it completely necessary to see them face to face.

However, whilst online consultations might be a seamless solution for many, a significant portion of disabled individuals encounter barriers due to digital complexities. For those who don’t have access to a computer or smartphone, find typing difficult, struggle to read information on screens etc. an online consultation platform is just another barrier for them to overcome to get the care they need.

For disabled patients who don’t wish to attend face to face appointments, but also struggle to access online services, an even more inclusive avenue of access needs to be found, which is where Patchs Telephone Assistant shines.      

Levelling up accessibility with Patchs Telephone Assistant

Patchs Telephone Assistant is a feature designed to mitigate online accessibility issues by providing an alternative means of interacting with the Patchs system, allowing patients to use the telephone, but instead of having to wait in a queue to speak to a receptionist and make a face-to-face appointment, they will instead be given the option to go through Telephone Assistant, which will ask them the same questions they would answer online.  

Their answers are then transcribed and triaged by urgency into the online system, mirroring the same workflow as a digital submission. Once in the Patchs system the clinical member of staff can view and action the request as needed.

Patchs Telephone Assistant represents a modern fusion of the traditional phone call's accessibility, along with AI's enhanced functionality. The user-friendly nature of a telephone interface carries significant implications for the inclusivity of telehealth, as it allows patients to simply call and speak their consultation requests.

Alternatively, if a patient’s disability prevents them from both raising an online consultation and leaving a telephone message, then Patchs also allows for a member of staff, most likely a receptionist, to fill out the request for them. This empowers every patient to use the Patchs system regardless of their abilities or restrictions.

As well as allowing for inclusive care, Telephone Assistant is also extremely beneficial to GP staff, reducing stress and time limitations on the GP practices by streamlining processes and reducing the need for longer face to face appointments. Telephone Assistant means phonelines are now less in demand, so those who really do need to speak to a receptionist can get through quicker, and those who require a face to face are much more likely to get an appointment slot that day.   

Furthermore, Telephone Assistant can offer practices a significant amount of cost savings, Lingwell Croft Surgery in Leeds reduced calls to reception by 41% and saved the equivalent of 792 receptionist hours per year. This translated into a cost-saving of £3,450 per year, which could reach at least £11,500 per year as they scale the Telephone Assistant usage.

Heath Care First Partnership, a large practice covering 5 sites around Castleford in Yorkshire, reduced calls to reception by 13% and made savings that could translate to 1,248 hours of receptionist time and a potential cost-saving of £10,595 per year.

You can find both these case studies here: Patchs Telephone Assistant – Patchs Support  

The Future of Healthcare

By supporting inclusivity through cutting edge online and telephone systems, GPs can lead the charge towards a future where primary care is truly accessible to all. In doing so, they can inspire others in the industry to think creatively and compassionately about how technology can bridge the gap and uplift the most vulnerable members of our society.

In this era of innovation and change, the healthcare sector has a profound responsibility to ensure that its systems and structures are not just efficient, but genuinely inclusive. If you’re looking to improve inclusivity in your GP practices, reach out to a member of our team to take the first step in the right direction.

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